Italy head coach Conor O’Shea has lamented the decision of World Rugby to cancel their final pool game against New Zealand due to the effects of Typhoon Hagibis.
In a statement on Thursday, World Rugby said the decision was not taken lightly and that “team and public safety is the number one priority”.
The clash of England and France in Pool C has also been cancelled.
“The decision to cancel matches has not been taken lightly and has been made in the best interests of public, team, tournament personnel and volunteer safety, based on expert advice and detailed weather information.
“While we have extensively explored all options, public and team safety was our utmost priority as well as ensuring a consistent, fair and equitable outcome for all teams.”
In line with tournament rules, the fixture will be marked down as a 0-0 draw and two points will be awarded to both teams. That outcome means that New Zealand top Pool B on 16 points with South Africa finishing in second on 15. O’Shea’s side lie in third place on 12 points, meaning their World Cup campaign has come to an end.
O’Shea has said that the decision is very hard for him and his players to take.
“Clearly everyone is down because we wanted to have the chance to play against New Zealand.
“For us, it was our next challenge and perhaps for the last time for Sergio (Parisse), Ale (Alessandro Zanni), and Leo (Leonardo Ghiraldini) to play and the chance to give young players a chance. I’m disappointed for the players, the staff and the fans.
“I’m sure it was a hard decision for World Rugby. All the other teams whose matches have been cancelled are already through and we were the only ones who had a chance to qualify.
“We didn’t know until this morning, so I’d been telling Sergio and the boys that it was on but likely to be wet, so they got the bucket of water out.
“I’m finding it really difficult and I saw the players’ reaction after training and it was horrible because these guys have given their lives to Italian rugby and their World Cup has ended on the training pitch, when it should be on the playing field.
“For the World Cup not to finish in front of the fans on the pitch, in front of the fans watching on TV in Italy, it is a hard day for all of us and difficult to put into words.
“I feel bad for Sergio and the whole squad not to have the possibility to finish their World Cup on the pitch in front of the fans, and then together in the changing room. To have to accept it won’t be the case is really, really hard to take.”
While O’Shea admits that the chances of his side beating the in-form All Blacks and qualifying for the quarter-finals were slim, he remains adamant that his side deserved to test themselves against the best in the world.
“You never know what can happen on the pitch – like we found out against South Africa.
“We had a long time preparing for this, there was good energy and good spirit in the squad. I feel privileged to have worked with them.
“We had the chance to qualify. I’m not saying we would have beaten them, but you want to finish on the pitch.
“Anything can happen and you’re very emotional especially for Leonardo Ghiraldini, who missed his last chance to play in an Italy jersey and to hear that your international career is finished after training is tough to take.
“The match versus New Zealand wasn’t the last match of our World Cup. It was the next challenge on our journey and that was our mentality.”